Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Khadijah Muhammad had always loved to sing, but bad news silenced the songbird inside the Detroit, Mich., native when a doctor put her on complete vocal rest.
"That's when I got a chance to nurture another art form," she says.
Muhammad had always loved "anything creative," so when she was stripped of her primary medium, she turned a watchful eye to the artistic needs of others.
"I'd go to the store and see people in greeting-card aisles, agonizing over what cards to buy their loved ones, but the cards didn't say what people wanted them to say," Muhammad recalls.
Recognizing a gap in the market, she started creating her own line of three-dimensional greeting cards, which has now expanded to include pop-up cards, box cards and explosion cards. Muhammad creates each one by hand, noting that her line allows a sender to "say exactly what they want to convey to their loved ones."
The importance of her business, which she dubbed "Designs by Dij," has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I promote my business to let customers know that greeting cards are necessary. Even if you can't be physically present with someone, you can still send them a greeting card of love to let them know that we are all in this together," Muhammad says.
The Vicksburg resident's message of solidarity has now grown to include other products, such as pillows, umbrellas and tote bags focused on self-love, natural-hair love and Black love. Her work in uplifting her community led the Black Women's Business Expo in Pearl, Miss., to recognize her as one of the top 50 Black women in business in Mississippi.
She is not satisfied by the accolade alone, however, noting that in her Muslim community, "We have a saying that 'Perfect practice makes perfect.'" Muhammad strives toward that perfection by making sure each item she sells is customized and handmade to suit the customer's tastes.
"They're literal, structural works of art," she says of her unique offerings, adding that her goal for each order is to create something that can be displayed as art in the home of the buyer or the recipient.
Muhammad says her clients appreciate her effort, giving her a substantial amount of positive feedback on the intricacy of her work. Some of her buyers place orders by messaging the artist on Instagram or Facebook, but many of her purchases come through her website, which has a special section devoted to helping customers design custom orders.
"I work to make their vision come alive," Muhammad says of her relationship with her clients.
Because each custom order is unique to the customer, Muhammad says that it often takes her around a week to complete an order. "There's really a lot that goes into it," she says. "I put my heart into it."
Muhammad's heart, too, is deeply rooted in her community. Raised in southwestern Mississippi, she attended Muhammad's University of the New Islam in Lorman from kindergarten until college.
Her rootedness in her community has contributed to her dreams for Designs by Dij, and she is currently decorating her new studio-office space to do even more work.
"I'll be able to handle bigger projects with a bigger workspace," Muhammad says of her transition, hoping that it will enable to better serve her customers.
Her dreams stretch beyond the limits of a building, though, as she hopes to continue improving her craft itself.
"Most of my growth has come from researching and trying new techniques and not being afraid to fail. I built my business from the ground up, and I hope to continue doing that by learning what's needed and hearing what the public wants" she says.
To order a one-of-a-kind Designs by Dij product, reach out to the artist on Instagram at designsbydij, on Facebook at Designs by Dij, or on her website, designsbydij.com.